Trent North, director of Community Affairs and Program Compliance, said the Teacher Keys Evaluation System and Leader Keys Evaluation System have been "fully implemented," and that while there have been a few tweaks and bumps in the road, it's mostly been a success for the system.
The new evaluation system, which tasks students with evaluating teachers and teachers evaluating administrators, is part of the city system's pilot program of Race to the Top, a federal government initiative to implement school improvement strategies.
While teachers will be evaluated through student surveys and student test scores, along with the observations, building-level administrators will be evaluated by schoolwide test scores, employee surveys, and observations through their superiors. District level administrators like Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards will, in the same vein, be evaluated by systemwide test scores, employee surveys, and the school board.
North said the new instrument requires leaders to have "more structured" interactions with teachers, and provides teachers with a clearer outlook on their expectations from both their superiors and their students.
"Students getting to participate in the surveys is a key component of the program, and all students in grades 3-12 complete the surveys," North said. "We piloted the surveys for kindergarten through second grade, but it was just too much for them. That's one of the tweaks we've had to make as we pilot this."
One of the major changes introduced by the new system is its method of completion — the evaluations are done entirely on computers.
"Having the evaluations done electronically is important, too, because it's kind of like instant feedback," North said of the shift away from pencil-and-paper evaluations. "When Dr. Edwards evaluates me, it's released to me as soon as he's finished, and I have access to it immediately. That has helped us out a whole lot, and I appreciate the employees on the technological side who've made that possible."
After all the city system's tweaks and adjustments are complete, North said he expects the process — which he is trying to make "as fair as possible for all involved" — will be more successful than the previous model.
While he said the old evaluation method, the Georgia Teacher Observation Instrument, has been in place for at least 20 years and relies heavily on short teacher observations by school principals, the new method will combine three categories for evaluation, all of which are more objective, he said.
"We're critiquing the system and making suggestions for changes, and it's been really good for us," North said. "When it's eventually used by Carroll County Schools and other districts in the state, the instrument will be better than what we started with. But that's because of all the revisions and remodels we've done that will hopefully improve the whole process."
North cited a piece of legislation that has made it from the Georgia House of Representatives to the Senate, being read and referred by the latter on March 1.
The bill, drafted by Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, will establish a similar evaluation system for all Georgia schools. Nix told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when his bill was first introduced that the goal of the legislation is to provide greater uniformity and more objectivity in the evaluation systems.
The bill passed the house on Feb. 28 with a 151-21 vote.
According to information from the state Department of Education, the Race to the Top program was provided for by the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in which $4 billion was provided to states initiating school improvement strategies.
The state of Georgia received $400 million of these funds, and then half was distributed to participating pilot schools. Carrollton City Schools received $1.3 million to implement the Race to the Top pilot program across the system.
Ultimately, the goal of Race to the Top is to set high standards and rigorous assessments for administrators, teachers and students; prepare students for college readiness; provide great teachers and leaders; provide effective support for schools, specifically low-achieving schools; and become a leader in STEM fields.
North said that the new evaluation method minimizes subjectivity by combining the traditional observation with measurements of student growth and achievement — measured through test scores — and student surveys.
North said principals participate in two formal evaluations of every teacher each year, as well as two "walkthroughs" per semester.
The formal evaluations have more substance, the director said, while the walkthroughs are done online and require less observation time in the classroom.